John L. Young; Georgetta I. Young Plaintiffs - Appellants
Mercer County Commission, A Missouri Political Subdivision; Clifford Shipley, individually, and his official capacity as Mercer County Commissioner; Zack Martin, individually, and in his official capacity as Mercer County Commissioner; Shane Grooms, individually, and in his official capacity as Mercer County Commissioner Defendants-Appellees
Submitted: September 22, 2016
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - St. Joseph
COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
and Georgetta Young brought this action against Clifford
Shipley, Shane Grooms, and Zach Martin individually and in
their official capacities as Mercer County Commissioners, and
the Mercer County Commission. The district
courtgranted Defendants' motion for summary
judgment, finding that they were protected by absolute
legislative immunity and qualified immunity, and the Youngs
appealed. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the Youngs as the non-moving
parties, the facts relevant to this appeal are as follows.
See Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014).
Mr. Young is the elected part-time prosecutor for Mercer
County, Missouri, and he also operates a private law practice
there. The Youngs own a home and an office building in Mercer
Young and the Commission entered into the
"Prosecutor/County Lease Agreement" (the
"Agreement") covering the Youngs' office
building. Pursuant to the Agreement, the office building was
designated as Mr. Young's private law office and that of
the prosecuting attorney. Additionally, the parties set forth
the following terms in the Agreement: (1) the Commission was
to provide one full-time secretary, a telephone, and office
supplies; (2) Mr. Young was to pay for utilities, internet,
and liability insurance for the building; and (3) the
Commission was to pay Mr. Young $350.00 monthly "for
rent . . . to offset expenses being paid privately for said
office." J.A. 240.
27, 2013, the Commission passed ordinance number 06272013
(the "911 Ordinance"), which mandated that every
resident of the county be assigned a permanent 911 address.
To facilitate location by emergency responders, the 911
Ordinance directed the Commission to place an address sign
where each residential driveway meets the adjoining county or
state road. The Youngs' home sits on the corner of United
States Highway 65 and a county road named Gaza Place. As a
result of the 911 Ordinance, the Youngs' address was
changed in October 2013 from "Route 1, Box 34" to
"20667 Gaza Place." Shortly thereafter, the Youngs
began contesting this change of address because, they argued,
the Gaza Place address sent visitors to the side of their
house and "a name such as Gaza that people are likely to
associate with Middle Eastern conflict arguably is not
popular." Appellants' Br. 6. Over the next several
months, the Youngs repeatedly requested that the Commission
change their address to reflect a location on Highway 65.
point during the Fall of 2013, Mr. Young began insinuating
that he would take legal action to resolve the address
dispute, and the Commission hired attorneys Matthew Aplington
and Ivan Shraeder to look into the matter. As part of this
representation, the Commission provided these attorneys with
a copy of the Agreement, and Mr. Shraeder advised the
Commission that the Agreement violated the Missouri
Constitution. Specifically, he identified as problematic the
Commission's payment of public money to Mr. Young in the
form of rent and Mr. Young's use of the full-time
prosecutorial secretary for work arising out of his private
four events occurred that form the basis of the present suit.
First, in December of 2013, the Commission denied Mr.
Young's proposed budget request for part-time secretarial
assistance in the amount of $5000. Then, on March 31, 2014,
the Commission terminated the Agreement and made available
space in the county courthouse for the prosecutor's
office; suspended the $350.00 monthly rental payments; and
wrote a letter to the state attorney general requesting
further investigation into the arrangement called for in the
Agreement. The latter three actions were all taken at the
behest of Mr. Shraeder.
August 19, 2014, the Youngs brought this action, asserting a
number of claims centered on their contention that the
defendants took the above actions in retaliation for their
address complaints. Taken from the operative complaint, those
claims are as follows: Count 1 sought a declaratory judgment
or injunction to prevent the Commission from assigning to the
Youngs a Gaza Place address, to declare the 911 Ordinance
invalid, and to prevent any further acts of retaliation.
Count 2 requested damages from Shipley, Grooms, and Martin in
their individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
retaliation in violation of the Youngs' First Amendment
rights. Finally, Count 3 asserted that the 911
Ordinance's mandate that an address sign be placed on the
Youngs' property constituted a taking in violation of the
defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the district
court issued an order granting this motion in part and
denying it in part. Specifically, the court determined that
the defendants had absolute legislative immunity for their
actions in passing the 911 Ordinance and assigning to the
Youngs the Gaza Place address, that the court would not
invalidate the ordinance, and that the Youngs' takings
claim failed to the extent it sought recovery based on the
particular address assignment. However, the court denied the
motion insofar as it sought to dismiss the retaliation and
takings claims. It found, based on the record as it existed
at that time, that the defendants were not entitled to
legislative immunity for the complained-of actions and that
the takings claim could proceed based on the permanent
address sign required by the ordinance.
further discovery, the defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment arguing that the retaliation claims were barred by
legislative immunity and that the takings claim failed
because the Commission was authorized by Missouri law to
erect address signs. The district court granted this motion.
Dismissing the takings claim, the court found that the
placement of an address sign on the Youngs' property was
neither a per se nor a regulatory taking. The Youngs do not
appeal this dismissal. As to the retaliation claim, the court
held that all four of the above ...